Romanticism and the Human Sciences: Poetry, Population, and the Discourse of the Species

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This innovative study examines the dialogue between British Romantic poetry and the human sciences of the period. Maureen McLane reveals how Romantic writers participated in a new-found consciousness of human beings as a species, engaging with major discourses on moral philosophy, political economy and anthropology by preeminent theorists such as Malthus, Godwin and Burke. The book provides original readings of canonical works, including Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Percy Shelley's Prometheus Unbound, and has much to say about the place of Romantic poetry within its culture.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Romanticism and the Human Sciences offers fresh perspectives on canonical texts and ultimately seeks to sketch a position that both recontextualizes romantic arguments and remains sensitive to how those arguments themselves test the boundaries of any merely contextual reading. In raising far-reaching questions with seriousness and candor, it does not shy away from the very real difficulties of its subject, and it makes a compelling case that the challenge posed by romanticism to today's readers—whether humanist, anti-humanist, or none of the above—remains as potent and problematic as ever." Deborah Elise White, Emory University, Studies in Romanticism

"a thought-provoking reflection on the value of Romantic literature... a valuable contribution to our understanding of the period. [McLane] demonstrates that the new ways of understanding human beings in society, the new modes of calculating human worth, envisioning human possibility, and quantifying human lives exerted a powerful influence on Romantic writing." Romanticism on the Net

"Intriguing....the overall quetion of the connection between literature and anthropology during the Romantic age proves to be very fertile ground for elaborate and detailed discussions of both literary and theoretical texts of that period." Variations

"Her [McLane's] readings of individual works are...frequently brilliant..." Albion

"A book of wide scope and intellectual ambition." RedNova News

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521773485
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2000
  • Series: Cambridge Studies in Romanticism Series, #41
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Maureen N. McLane was educated at the Universities of Harvard, Oxford, and Chicago. She is the author of Same Life: Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008) and Balladeering, Minstrelsy, and the Making of British Romantic Poetry (Cambridge University Press, 2008). She is also co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to British Romantic Poetry (Cambridge University Press, 2008). A contributing editor at the Boston Review, she was for years the chief poetry critic of the Chicago Tribune, and her articles on poetry, contemporary fiction, teaching, and sexuality have appeared in many venues, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, American Poet, the Poetry Foundation website, The Boston Globe, The Boston Phoenix, the Chicago Review, and the Harvard Review. In 2003 she won the National Book Critics Circle's Nona Balakian Award for Excellence in Book Reviewing, and in 2007 she was elected to a three-year term on the Board of Directors of the NBCC. She has taught at Harvard University, the University of Chicago, MIT, and the East Harlem Poetry Project, and is currently an Associate Professor in the English Department at NYU. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in jubilat, American Poet, The New Yorker, Slate, Canary, Circumference, A Public Space, American Letters and Commentary, The American Scholar, New American Writing, the Harvard Review, and Jacket. Her interests include contemporary poetry, British romanticism, balladry, historiography, psychoanalysis, anthropology, American studies and Scottish studies.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements; Introduction, or the thing at hand; 1. Toward an anthropologic: poetry, literature, and the discourse of the species; 2. Do rustics think? Wordworth, Coleridge, and the problem of a 'human diction'; 3. Literate species: populations, 'humanities', and the specific failure of literature in Frankenstein; 4. The 'arithmetic of futurity': poetry, population, and the structure of the future; 5. Dead poets and other romantic populations: immortality and its discontents; Epilogue, or Immortality interminable: the use of poetry for life; Notes; Bibliography; Index.

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